[Disclaimer: This blog does not represent the views or opinions of Enkido as he exists in a sane state and he cannot be held responsible for the content expressed in this article. For real, He is suffering from a mind numbing case of déjà vu. Also, cocks.]
Welcome back my fellow Destructoidians... Destructoiders... Destructoiduns(?). It doesn't matter. Have you ever been looking through something and found something so incredibly relevant that you felt you had to share it? Well, that very premise is the catalyst for the blog you are reading right now. As we all know the vigia gaims are a much bigger subject in life today. Similarly, it is much bigger than just the systems and the games that we play. There is also the politics, marketing, controversy, business, and a myriad of other topics that all have to do with games today. Well, as a video game enthusiast the business end of gaming has become a sort of point of interest for me and as such I would like to share with you a small tidbit I stumbled across that some of you may already be aware of. There is a console, produced by one of the big 3, that has had a rough time. It launched behind its competitors, it lost money on its hardware, has been forced to lower its price again and again in order to stay competitive, and lagged behind its competitors. Industry analysts have criticized and lampooned the manner in which it has been produced and marketed, and some have even suggested that it may not have a next iteration. By now I am sure that you have all been able to guess exactly which console I am talking about. I am talking, of course, about the XBox
Wait, wut? Indeed, if you read through that link, you will find that these are the exact conditions that the original XBox console my Microsoft found itself in circa 2002. It also sounds eerily similar to the situation of another console that you may be familiar with, that being the situation of the current gen PS3. The story of these two consoles is almost frighteningly similar. The original XBox was not exactly a powerhouse when it came to sales, and while by the end of the generation it had beaten the Gamecube in hardware sales, it was actually never able to recoup the losses it entailed from both development and hardware sales losses
. The money that was lost due to the original XBox was actually not made up until relatively recently, a little over two year ago, by sales of the 360. This failing on the part of the original XBox was not widely known to many people that did not actively look for this information, but it still bothers me when I see things like "X console is doomed" or other such stupidity in the comments sections of game sites. Seeing as we can learn so much from history, I figured I might as well make an attempt to ejikate those who were not aware, highlight some discrepancies that may differentiate this generation from the last, and maybe even make some predictions if I feel like living dangerously.
First a look at the last generation.
The sixth generation of video game consoles is said to have officially been kicked off with the release of the Sega Dreamcast. It was released in 1999 (going with NA release, as that's where I hail from) ahead of the other consoles, but by 2002 had been discontinued. It arguably little impact on the generation in terms of comparison with this generation and so for the sake of this article I won't be discussing it. Instead, I am interested with the release of the first console by one of the current members of the Big 3, the Playstation 2
. It was released at the dawn of the millennium, little over a year before its two other Big 3 rivals the Gamecube
and the XBox
. From there the PS2 went on to dominate the sixth generation, becoming the highest selling console in history with over 140 million units and climbing, and leaving the other two systems fighting for a significantly distant second. A little over a year after the release of the PS2 saw the release of both Nintendo's Gamecube and Microsoft's XBox. The XBox, when it was released was praised for its technical system specs, which eclipsed those of its two rivals and even the fact that it could be used as a Linux host
, making it into a functional, and rather powerful, home computer. However, as the first link
in this article shows it launched at a considerable loss per console sold, which it was never able to recoup. It was however able to claim the second spot in sales for the sixth generation from the Gamecube, overtaking it a little under four years into the generation. The original XBox also succeeded in establishing Microsoft's Live service, which later proved to be a boon for the company and with help from Bungie and Halo, establishing the first fully featured online gaming service.
Now for the current generation.
There was no Dreamcast for this generation. Instead, it was kicked off by a member of the Big 3, in this case the new XBox 360
by Microsoft in 2005, almost exactly a year ahead of its two competitors. However, unlike the last generation, this did not secure it top spot in the current gen. That honor instead belongs to the new Nintendo Wii
, which is currently outselling its two rivals at the tune of almost two to one last I checked, leaving its competitors fighting for a distant second, similarly to the last generation. Then there is the XBo- I mean PS3
. The XB-PS3, when it was released was praised for its technical system specs, which eclipsed those of its two rivals and even the fact that it could use other OS systems, making it into a functional and rather powerful personal computer, even a supercomputer. However, as this link
shows, it launched at a considerable lost per console sold, but one that is is predicted to eliminate. It has also been predicted
(beware sarcasm) that the XB-PS3 will claim the second place spot by the end of this generation. This current generation also sees the introduction of Micr-Sony's online gaming service, Li-the PlayStation Network.
Now not all of the conditions are exactly the same in this generation as compared to the last, and I never expected them to be. As such, here is a non-comprehensive but relevant list of some of the differences that may change the historic precedent for this generation.
All of the Big 3 now have online gaming systems that allow for all sorts of fun stuff for gamers. One of the 360's greatest strengths lies in the power of its online gaming service. However, now that Sony has a comparable service at no cost to the user, it becomes important to take this into account when discussing the current gen. It is possible that the content war (Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Ect.) that we are seeing on the networks may have an effect on console sales due to the increasing value of the consoles and their respective services.
Motion control is the big thing this generation. It has propelled the Wii to its first place pedestal, and sent the other two scrambling to arm themselves with some form of motion control on their systems. This may have happened to late in the game for it to have that much of an impact on the events that have already taken place, as we are now over four years into the generation, but the introduction of Natal and the Playstation Move, may have an effect on the second place battle between Sony and Microsoft.
Similar to motion control, it seems as this may be set to become a big thing in the industry. It would appear that this is what Sony is hoping will be the next motion control for video gaming and is poised to be the first to the market. It is difficult to say how much of an impact this will have on the current gen. This is due to the fact that like motion control for Sony and Microsoft, the arrival of 3D may be too late for this generation. However, unlike motion control which was introduced by the Wii and incorporated into the PS3 and 360, 3D has yet to be introduced, and no one has the hardware to accomplish this yet, with 3D TV's just beginning to be sold and the PS3 being the only gaming console able to be updated to include 3D capability. In this case, I believe that 3D has a much better chance of becoming the new thing for the next generation, as motion controls are for this one.
These guys are an illusion, based on an enigma, and wrapped in a mystery. Who knows what they are gonna do. As it stands now I don't believe that they will do much to change the course of the current trend, as they seem to have already made their presence felt, but the introduction of this new demographic is a change from the last generation.
XBox/PS3 Specific Discrepancies
As I showed above, there are a lot of similarities between the original XBox and the PS3 in terms of sales trends. There are however, some differences. For starters the PS3 launched at a much higher price point and sold at a much greater loss. However, the initial sales price could still be seen as taking advantage of the early adopters, while the original XBox missed out on this, having to compete with the PS2 and Gamecube. Another difference is that Sony was usually the one to determine when price cuts occurred in this generation by announcing a price cut while the others followed suit, whereas the XBox had little control over when price cuts happened, having to match the other two competitors. Another thing to consider is that it is unlikely that the PS3 will be abandoned in a way reminiscent of the original XBox, which was discontinued after only 4 years giving it more time to refine the hardware and bring down costs, eventually regaining the losses it incurred. One of the other criticisms the PS3 received the the XBox did not was the difficulty that many developers have experienced with regards to coding for the machine. This seems to have played itself out as many of the developers have honed their skills and have begun to tap the potential of the system.
Okay now for the dangerous part. You have all seen how much historic precedent can define the future. Now, I am going to attempt to walk on water, water most likely filled with sharks and land mines mind you, and predict what all of this history stuff has to do with the next generation. Be gentle with me.
If the last 2 gens are any indication, one of the Big 3 will have a console out with a healthy lead over the other two. In the case of the next generation, I am going to predict that it is Nintendo that will have this honor. With sales of the Wii beginning to plateau and stagnate, they are the most likely to be eager for the beginnings of a new console generation. Another support for this is Microsoft and Sony's passiveness, seemingly content to refresh their offerings with the introduction of motion control and the addition of features on their respective networks.
Gold, Sliver, and Bronze
This is a bit more difficult to derive. I believe that the next offering from Microsoft could be a contender for the gold, but there are a couple things that have to be done in order for this to happen. I believe that the Nextbox will be the most dependable of the three next gen consoles. Microsoft can not, can not (again for emphasis) afford another fiasco like the red ring of death. As such, I think they will have the most rigorously tested machine on the market come next gen. It will take more than that, however. They also have an opportunity to pounce on in the form of Europe and Japan, where the brand name has yet to secure itself, partly due to the aforementioned situation. I wrote a monthy musing blog
about what Microsoft can do in Japan to increase their fortunes. The Natal launch could help, as could the growing popularity of the FPS genre in Japan. One thing I didn't talk about is the benefit a dedicated hand-held system would have there. They have an opportunity with Live available for various phones, but it has been proven time and again the the Japanese love their hand-held gaming systems and Microsoft would most likely benefit greatly by introducing a popular hand-held device. You heard it here first, hand-held gaming from Microsoft next gen. If Microsoft can do these things, I believe they could have a very good chance of securing the gold for the next gen. That leaves the fight for silver between Sony and Nintendo. Much of this depends on the install base of the Wii. If they stay loyal to Nintendo then they could potentially threaten the gold. I an however, skeptical of this happening, as I see many casual gamers being content with their current purchase for quite a while. As such I predict a Sony second place after an implementation of an easier to program structure, which has been rumored
, and a push for 3D tech.
This generation had a very definite gimmick in the form of motion controls, and I would bet my left arm that the Big 3 are looking for the next big one that will propel them to the top. In the next generation I am almost forced to say that this gimmick is going to be 3D. It could be argued that it is a part of the tech this gen, but I do not believe that it will be truly relevant until the next. Like it or not it seems to me form where I'm standing that 3D will be the next big thing/annoyance. It would also appear that Sony will be at the forefront of it all.
The Part Where I Slip, Exploding Into Shark Bait
This is by far the least certain of my predictions, and as such, is prone to wild speculation and the potential for serious injury. It seems that in recent times apple has been moving closer and closer to creating a full fledged gaming device. The iPhone was quickly made into a somewhat respectable hand-held by the developers and sparked a few rumors that Apple may be able to do something with it. At the demo of the iPad, one of the features was demonstrated using a game, causing at least myself to think that they may be able to pull something like a dedicated game console off. The other dangerous prediction that I will make is concerning Nintendo's future in the console business. Now I am not so stupid as to say that they will not have a console next gen, but the way they have shifted their user base to much more tumultuous ground, could see that base collapsing beneath them sometime in the next gen, especially if a release from Apple comes to fruition, resulting in a Dreamcast style withdrawal or a pass on the creation of a console for the following generation.
Things to Take Away from All This
Okay, so by now this blog is entirely too long for your average internet user attention span, and kudos to you if you read through the whole thing. So that just leaves us with a summation and closing thoughts. The big thing to take away from all this is that history is doomed to repeat itself. Looking back at stuff like this tends to shield people form the ridicule that tends to come with ignorance of any particular subject and so warrants investigation. Also, the thought that the PS3 is doomed to failure that I have been seeing around is a load of bull and as such that my alarmist title is somewhat of a fallacy, shamelessly inserted in a desperate attempt at page views. Sony is not going to be leaving the Big 3, nor are the other two, at least not in the immediate future. Other things to jot down are that speculation is fun, an alarmist title works wonders, and my next blog will be much, much, much shorter.
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